The Chicago Police Department has unveiled a new policy prohibiting its officers from chasing people on foot simply because they run away, or because they have committed minor offenses.
The policy, which was introduced Tuesday, also encourages cops to “consider alternatives” to pursuing someone who “is visibly armed with a firearm.”
Under the policy, officers may give chase if they believe a person is committing or is about to commit a felony, a Class A misdemeanor such as domestic battery, or a serious traffic offense that could risk injuring others, such as drunken driving or street racing.
Perhaps most significantly, the new policy makes clear that the days of officers giving chase just because someone tries to get away from them are over.
“People may avoid contact with a member for many reasons other than involvement in criminal activity,” the policy states.
The long-awaited foot chase ban is expected to go into effect by the end of the summer, after the city’s 11,900 uniformed cops receive training.
The move comes more than a year after two foot pursuits ended with cops fatally shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez in separate March 2021 incidents.
Toledo and Alvarez, who were armed when they ran from police in separate March 2021 pursuits, were not mentioned in the news release announcing the policy or the policy itself.
Toledo was shot in the chest after dropping a gun and raising his hands, and Alvarez was shot in the back while brandishing a gun.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot demanded that the department create an interim policy after the March 2021 shootings and the county’s top prosecutor harshly criticized police over the Alvarez pursuit.
But back in April 2021, Lightfoot acknowledged that having police officers seek permission from a supervisor before engaging someone in a foot pursuit was not ideal.
“I don’t want people out there who are dangerous to think, ‘Well, if I just run, then I’m safe. I can continue to wreak havoc,’” the mayor said. “We can’t live in that world, either.”
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown told reporters Tuesday that police had been discussing a foot pursuit policy “for several years before those shootings happened.”
He said he expects the new rules will make the officers and the public safer, as has happened in other cities that have adopted similar policies.
“The impact on crime has been studied (and) we can look back at what has made officers safer, has made communities safer for over a decade,” he said at a press briefing.
The new policy includes a number of circumstances in which an officer must call off a chase, including a requirement that the pursuit must end if a third party is injured and needs immediate medical attention that can’t be provided by anyone else.
If officers realize they do not know exactly where they are, which is possible in a chaotic situation in which they are running through alleys and between houses, they must stop. And if they find themselves unable to communicate with other officers, because they drop their radios or for another reason, they must stop.
The policy also makes a point of reminding officers that they or their supervisors will not be criticized or disciplined for deciding against a foot pursuit or calling one off.
Officers are also prohibited from provoking chases, such as by employing a tactic in which they speed in their squad cars toward a group of people, stop suddenly and jump out “with the intention of stopping anyone in the group who flees.”
The policy comes after years of discussion about the danger of foot chases.
Five years ago, the US Department of Justice issued a scathing report saying that too many police chases in the city were unnecessary or ended with officers shooting people they did not have to shoot. And three years ago, a judge signed off on a consent decree that included a requirement to adopt a foot pursuit policy.
A Chicago Tribune investigation found that a third of the city’s police shootings from 2010 through 2015 involved someone being wounded or killed during a foot pursuit.
Other major cities, such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon, have already implemented foot pursuit policies.
With Post wires
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